Blu-ray Review: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain in Stunning ‘Take Shelter’

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CHICAGO – Two of the performances most disturbingly missing from the line-up that will be read at the Academy Awards on Sunday are Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain’s in the stunning “Take Shelter,” recently released on Blu-ray and DVD. Jeff Nichols’ film is a stirring, moving drama about not just the potential end of the world but the impact of mental illness and the anxiety of the modern era in which our job, our family, and our friendships are more fragile than you might ever think. Oscarman rating: 4.5/5.0
Rating: 4.5/5.0

Curtis (Michael Shannon) is an average guy. He has a beautiful wife named Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and a construction job. He has one child, a six-year-old girl named Hannah, who is deaf and dealing with her handicap and a potential resolution for it has been a focus for Curtis and Samantha but doesn’t seem to be placing any undue stress on their family. If anything, it could bring them together even more.

But Curtis has a problem. He’s having terrifying dreams. First, an oil-like rain falls from the sky, followed by tornadoes on the horizon, followed by people trying to kidnap his daughter, followed by waking up screaming and drenched in sweat. As the dreams get more intense, Curtis begins to think that they may be more prophetic than pure nightmare. He begins building out the tornado shelter in his backyard and then truly hits the wall when his night visions invade his daily life. He hears thunder when there are only blue skies. And to make it worse, Curtis’s mom became schizophrenic at right around the age that Curtis is now. He has two possibilities — a horrible apocalypse is coming or he’s going crazy — and neither feature a happy ending.

The Academy may have missed the obvious decision to nominate one of the best performances of 2011 but the Chicago Film Critics Association came through, not only nominating Mr. Shannon but giving him the trophy for Best Actor of the year. His performance here is mesmerizing as the actor never goes for the easy sell. He doesn’t “play crazy,” instead focusing on the arc of a normal guy going down a very scary road. He’s brilliant. And a second viewing, when Curtis is not so much of the focus, reveals how incredible Ms. Chastain is here as well. These are EASILY two of the best performances of 2011. Screw the Oscars. They’ll survive. And decades from now, after both Shannon and Chastain have won Oscars, no one will believe that they weren’t nominated for this early-career gem.

Take Shelter was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 14, 2012
Take Shelter was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 14, 2012
Photo credit: Sony

When Curtis (Michael Shannon) begins having nightmares of an encroaching, apocalyptic storm, he refrains from telling his wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain). To protect her and their six-year-old deaf daughter Hannah, Curtis stars focusing his anxiety and money into the obsessive building of a storm shelter. While Hannah’s healthcare and special needs education has resulted in financial struggle, Curtis’ seemingly inexplicable behavior concerns Samantha and provokes intolerance among co-workers, friends and neighbors. However, the resulting strain on his marriage and tension within the community doesn’t compare to Curtis’ private fear of what his disturbing dreams may truly signify.

Special Features:
o Deleted Scenes
o Commentary with Jeff Nichols & Michael Shannon
o Behind the Scenes of Take Shelter
o Q&A with Michael Shannon & Shea Whigham
o BD Live Enabled

“Take Shelter” stars Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon, and Kathy Baker. It was written and directed by Jeff Nichols. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 14th, 2012. content director Brian Tallerico

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